Svitzer Marine Ltd enters guilty plea in crewmember death caseWritten by Nick Blenkey
The U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) reports that Svitzer Marine Ltd. has been fined GBP 2 million (about $2.41 million) after pleading guilty to failing to operate a vessel safely and failing to provide a safe system of work, causing 62-year-old Ian Webb to fall into the water, with fatal consequences.
The fine was imposed in a February 20 hearing at Liverpool Crown Court. The Svitzer Group member company was also ordered to pay GBP 136,711 (about $164,000) in costs.
Calling the incident an “avoidable tragedy,” the MCA says the fatality sparked an investigation by the agency that, it says, “identified a catalogue of the company’s failures.”
On the evening of Webb’s death, January 27, 2019, Svitzer Marine’s tug Millgarth was cast off from the Tranmere north jetty, in the river Mersey, in storm force conditions.
Webb, the vessel’s chief engineer, released the mooring lines and attempted to return to the tug, stepping down from the jetty on to a fender. The tug was free from the jetty and rolling in the swell of the river.
Expected to stand on top of a narrow, wet fender with unprotected drops either side, Webb fell into the river.
He was eventually rescued by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, but died from the effects of cold water immersion.
The MCA says that its investigation revealed Svitzer Marine had not completed a risk assessment of the Tranmere jetties, despite crews raising concerns.
Svitzer Marine had failed to instruct crews in how to operate rescue equipment, failed to ensure rescue equipment was correctly fitted, and failed to ensure safety drills were being conducted, says MCA..
“This case highlights the consequences of complacency, of failure to adequately assess risks which can be prevalent in everyday tasks, and of failure to undertake safety drills to ensure crews are competent in the use of life saving equipment, said MCA senior investigator Mark Flavell. “As with most incidents of this nature, it was an avoidable tragedy, and the MCA will take action to stamp out such failures.”